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Two critical questions every church should ask before taking a mission trip

Short-term mission trips are invaluable to your church - or so you’ve heard or possibly even experienced. A quick Google search will reveal hundreds of organizations offering different projects, experiences and models for short-term mission work. After nearly a dozen experiences with such organizations, I’ve started asking two main questions.

Who should I partner with?

Short-term missions can actually cause more pain and stress on a community than being the blessing you imagined.  It’s important to find an organization that continues the relationship and discipleship process year round. Your group is not the answer to poverty or local issues, but the local organization might be. God has empowered these organizations to train, equip and disciple the people in their sphere of influence.

Choosing an organization that is looking to call upon the local church to live out the mission God’s given them is imperative.  “Plug-and-Play” trips have been a lifesaver for me as a youth pastor, but I’ve had to take a step back and ask myself: Is this actually the most effective form of short-term missions? “Plug-and-Play” mission trips aren’t wrong by any means, but we need to think deeper about the organizations we partner with. When you decide to partner, actually partner. Long-term relationships have greater value and impact.

How do I afford a mission trip? 

Removing barriers for interested participants is imperative, and unfortunately, money is often the greatest barrier.

Fundraisers are a dying art, unless they have been grandfathered into your organization’s DNA. They often yield disappointing results and turn the trip leader into a banker. This ultimately takes valuable time away from actually training the participants for the upcoming trip. 

So the biggest question is, how in the world do you offer an affordable mission trip? I propose taking an approach that focuses on those who want to go on the trip.

  • Ask participants to pay a fair price.
    Focus on making the trip possible for as many people as you can. We ultimately want people to experience the life-changing power that comes through serving God’s kingdom. Set the cost at less than what many of them will spend on their own personal travel teams and vacations. 
  • Ask participants to send a specific number of support letters.
    Focusing on the number of support letters that need to be sent makes it easier for people to raise money. Encourage people to tell others about what they’re wanting to do on the mission trip. Let the letters be opportunities to share their faith. The money raised will go into a “pot.” Some will raise far more than what they need and others will raise less. This is perfectly normal and acceptable since a mission trip is a team effort after all.
  • Lastly, pick the right organization.
    We have already gone over this, but do not underestimate the importance of this. Look for an organization that will be flexible and help your church go on mission. You can cook, find lodging and work projects yourself that are far cheaper if your mission partner will work with you.  It will be a lot more work on your end, but could make taking a mission trip a reality for your church.

Never underestimate the value of short-term mission trips. It ignites passion, educates and equips the participants to begin serving locally. Beyond the difference you make during your trip, the discipleship and experience your church has during a mission trip can be life changing. 

Written by Ben Waldron, student ministry pastor at CrossWay Church in Germantown, Wis.

Go to www.buckner.org/missions to discover mission trip opportunities available through Buckner. 

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